Trailblazer Staffer Interview with Caitlin Allen of Branford
INTERVIEW BY: Laura Gomez
You’ve already met Derek Angel, from Branford, in our previous interview. So, this time around I want to introduce you to Caitlin Allen.
She’s another member of the Branford crew and has a bachelor’s degree in theater, has attended Guilford College, in North Carolina; which is a very active school for peace and social justice. Shortly after graduation, she went on humanitarian trips to Russia, Peru, and Venezuela, all the while doing hospital clowning and community outreach.
She is an advocate for peace and social justice, an adventurer, and a reminder to have empathy for others.
“I think that’s what we are here for, ultimately, is to connect with other people. That is the reason why I get up and go every day,” she said. “It’s all about empathy, about being able to feel for another person, to relate to their suffering.” - Caitlin
What places of the world have you visited?
Lima and Iquitos in Peru; Moscow, Russia and Caracas, Venezuela.
I went to Peru and Venezuela to do humanitarian clowning through the Global Outreach Program
of the Gesundheit Institute
and I volunteered at Maria’s Children in Russia, an arts rehabilitation center for orphans and disabled people. It was a healing experience, because when you help others you help yourself.
Tell me about your clowning experience.
I got into clowning when I met Lars Adams, Patch Adams’s son. We went to college together. He told me about hospital clowning, the Gesundheit Insitute and humanitarian clowning, and I immediately knew that was exactly the kind of thing I wanted to be involved in.
For years, as a training actor, I had to deliberately imagine life from the perspective of another, which made me very empathetic. Later on, disturbed by insensitivity, so much so, that I knew I had to do something to help others. I learned that only through empathy and loving radically, can there be a possibility for peace. This experience changed me.
Why do you love traveling?
Because it’s good for you, you know, I’ve heard that if you expose yourself to new experiences, like traveling abroad, your brain actually changes. It creates more neurological connections. It makes you more resourceful and better at problem solving. It also makes you more creative, more social. The benefits are many. I also like simply seeing beautiful places. I love a good landscape.
Tell me about a place that took your breath away, or an experience you’ll never forget.
Swimming in the Amazon. It’s one of those things that in retrospect it probably wasn’t such a good idea, but it was incredibly fun at the time. I was sliding down clay banks into the river, playing with local kids; it was awesome.
What would you say to someone that wants to travel and volunteer at a marginalized place, but is afraid?
I’ve learned during my travels to be prepared. Plan ahead and it won’t be so overwhelming when you get there. Dare to explore
something different from what you know and try to see the world through others’ eyes. Stay relentlessly enthusiastic and there will be no room for fear.
Caitlin is truly an inspiration. If you want to learn more about what she’s done or about the organizations she’s worked for, feel free to stop by the Branford store and meet her, personally.